Saving fish and our local environment

By: Jack Sanchez
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Many have asked what Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead (SARSAS) is currently doing. 

So far, SARSAS has salmon up 22 of the 33-mile length of the Auburn Ravine, with all flashboard dams below Lincoln removed by owners no later than Oct. 15 and not returned until April 15 to allow salmon and steelhead to migration and spawn. 

Salmon can currently reach Hemphill Dam, two miles upstream from Lincoln, where they are still blocked by Nevada Irrigation District’s dam.  Even though NID received three notices of violations at Hemphill Dam from California Department of Fish and Wildlife, it still has not provided fish passage.  A lawsuit against NID is apparently the only way to get this alleged public agency to do the right thing and provide fish passage over Gold Hill Dam.

While working to get Nevada Irrigation District (NID) to install fish passage over Hemphill and Gold Hill Dams on Auburn Ravine in order to get salmon to Auburn, SARSAS is restoring North Ravine for steelhead, which runs from Bell Road to Wise Road, which is also Auburn Ravine’s largest tributary.

SARSAS continues work to get salmon to Auburn’s two parks on Auburn Ravine, Auburn School Park Preserve, between City Hall and Placer High School, and Ashford Park on Auburn Ravine Road to spawn.  Eighty-four thousand cars pass Auburn each day.  Imagine the economic boon to the merchants of Auburn when many travelers stop to watch salmon spawn and spend money for up to four months each year.

SARSAS North Ravine Restoration Coordinator Robert Hane has been diligently and methodically contacting landowners along North Ravine to restore four miles for steelhead and ultimately for salmon spawning.

If you own property on North Ravine and want to restore it, please call Robert Hane at 530-885 3005.

  Several properties have already been restored.  Drivers along Mt. Vernon Road can view the restoration being done at Mt. Vernon Winery and visitors can soon enjoy watching steelhead while visiting the winery.

Mr. Hane has been working successfully removing blackberries, which are so thick along the stream that the roots act as dams blocking fish passage and creating sediment which prevents spawning.  Fish need gravel and cobble, not sediment for spawning and blackberry removal is the first step in returning spawning to the stream. 

A SARSAS volunteer college student from University of California at Santa Cruz, a Del Oro High graduate, Dylan Huntzinger recently did a study indicating blackberries consume three times the water by mass that redwoods consume.  Removing blackberries is not only beneficial to salmon/steelhead spawning but removal allows water to be more economically used for environmental improvement in our Age of Climate change.

SARSAS’ goal is to plant an urban forest along North Ravine that is self-sustaining.  SARSAS is planting red alders, white alder, big leaf maple, Oregon grape, Aptos blue redwood, red twig dogwood and white oak, all for shading, cooling and bank stabilization.

When the SARSAS North Ravine restoration project is completed, we will have a much improved ecosystem for anadromous fishes, Fall Run Chinook and Steelhead.

Our new ecosystem is designed to provide shade on the water, which will cool water temperature and oxygenate the water, three aspects of water necessary for ideal spawning.

At the Mt. Vernon Winery, one can see fences built along the banks to keep cattle out of the stream, which is necessary for undisturbed spawning. Cattle walk into redds (salmon spawning nests) and disturb the spawning nests and defecate into streams.

It is absolutely critical that SARSAS continue to restore not only all of North Ravine but all tributaries that flow into Auburn Ravine.

When North Ravine is completely restored, SARSAS will install a viewing platform off Wise Road at the confluence of North Ravine and Auburn Ravine for the public to view salmon and steelhead once they can get over NID’s Gold Hill Dam.

The SARSAS motto is this passage from Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

So SARSAS has been quite busy to answer the initial question, “What is SARSAS currently doing?”


Jack Sanchez is Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead (SARSAS)
president and founder.